The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) is under fire for recently removing an article from its website that listed Mormonism as a “cult.”  Part of the discussion surrounding the change is that it happened after Mitt Romney visited Billy Graham and his son Franklin Graham last week at the elder Graham’s home.  Billy Graham at that meeting pledged his support to Mitt Romney.

BGEA explained their decision.  In a statement Ken Barun, the BGEA chief of staff said, “Our primary focus at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has always been promoting the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We removed the information from the website because we do not wish to participate in a theological debate about something that has become politicized during this campaign.”

Some thoughts…

Based on how BGEA defines what a cult is – Mormonism still fits.

  • They do not adhere solely to the sixty-six books of the Bible as the inspired Word of God. They add their “special revelations” to the Bible and view them as equally authoritative.
  • They do not accept that our relationship to Jesus Christ is a reality “by grace through faith” alone, but promote instead a salvation by works.
  • They do not give Jesus Christ, the divine Son of God, full recognition as the second Person of the Trinity, composed of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

What do Mormons consider scripture?

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints have additional scriptures.  In addition to the Bible which they use an LDS Church published version of the King James Version.  They also consider the Book of Mormon, The Pearl of Great Price and Doctrines and Covenants as scripture as well.

How do Mormons define salvation?

Mormons also believe that salvation is attained through a combination of faith in the Atonement of Christ and good works.  On their own website the LDS Church explains:

…This rebirth occurs as individuals are baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. It comes as a result of a willingness “to enter into a covenant with our God to do his will, and to be obedient to his commandments in all things that he shall command us, all the remainder of our days” (Mosiah 5:5). Through this process, their “hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, [they] are born of him” (Mosiah 5:7). All who have truly repented, been baptized, have received the gift of the Holy Ghost, have made the covenant to take upon themselves the name of Jesus Christ, and have felt His influence in their lives, can say that they have been born again. That rebirth can be renewed each Sabbath when they partake of the sacrament…

…Eternal life is to know Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and dwell with Them forever—to inherit a place in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom (see John 17:3; D&C 131:1-4; 132:21-24). This exaltation requires that men receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, and that all Church members make and keep sacred covenants in the temple, including the covenant of eternal marriage. If the word salvation is used in this sense, no one is saved in mortality. That glorious gift comes only after the Final Judgment.

How do Mormons view Jesus Christ?

Looking at their official website, I’m struck more by what’s not there compared to what is there.  No where is their a reference of Jesus Christ being fully God and fully man.  There is no reference of Jesus being the 2nd Person of the Triune God.  They use the terms, “Savior,” “Redeemer” and “Son of God.”  But the rub is what do they mean by those terms?  They do say that Jesus is was “the Great Jehovah of the Old Testament, the Messiah of the New.”  What does that mean?

They also say “Jesus Christ is the only Begotten of the Father in the flesh.”  Again, do they view Jesus as God who is co-existent and co-equal with God the Father?

I want to be careful not to put words in their mouths, but the statement on Christ has a lot of familiar words to a typical evangelical, but it is lacking clarity on this issue.  Also their statement says, “On January 1, 2000, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles issued the following declaration. Titled ‘The Living Christ,’ this declaration bears witness of the Lord Jesus Christ and summarizes His identity and divine mission.”  What was their position before this?

Mormonism Research Ministry also pointed out the following quotes which should be considered:

“In bearing testimony of Jesus Christ, President Hinckley spoke of those outside the Church who say Latter-day Saints ‘do not believe in the traditional Christ.’ ‘No, I don’t. The traditional Christ of whom they speak is not the Christ of whom I speak'” (LDS Church News, week ending June 20, 1998, p.7).

“It is true that many of the Christian churches worship a different Jesus Christ than is worshipped by the Mormons or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” (LDS Seventy Bernard P. Brockbank, Ensign, May 1977, p.26 ).

We should consider past statements made by their leadership as well.

So where does that leave us?

I don’t like the timing of BGEA’s decision because the removal of Mormonism as a cult seems political in and of itself.  That said I don’t doubt their commitment to the the Gospel.  Also when we consider what the word cult means today and the stigma attached I don’t really see its use as helpful.  Though I haven’t always seen it this way, I now see that its use is pejorative, and it doesn’t help with sharing the Gospel with Mormons.  It just puts up walls so other than trying to point out that they’re different what is the purpose of the word’s use?  Can’t we do this through other means in civil dialogue?  We are to speak truth, but we are also to do so in love, (Ephesians 4:15).   We also are to be ready to share the hope that we have within us through Jesus Christ, but we are to do so with gentleness and respect, (1 Peter 3:15-16).  So we can’t not address false teaching in our midst, but can do so without throwing barriers in the way of the Gospel through our words.

That said it would be inappropriate to lump Mormons in with Christians as some are apt to do because there are many, many differences in doctrines even though Christians and Mormons share similar terminology.  I believe BGEA recognizes this so I’m not concerned about their commitment to the Gospel and Christian orthodoxy.

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